Hammers 6, Monsters of the Deep 4

What a fun game! Don’t ever doubt what Ronald Acuña means to this team.  Our guys were trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the 7th, having just blown a 3-0 lead.  With a runner on first with two outs, Snit turned to Ronald to pinch hit for Travis Demeritte.  El de la Sabana drove a 1-2 pitch into the left field corner, scoring Olson from first and tying the game at 4.  Dansby followed with a walk, and Ozzie drove them both in with a bloop double to left.  The Braves took a 6-4 lead that held up the rest of the way.

Jethro Tull started for the Hammers, and for 5 innings he looked better than he had all season, shutting the Fish out on just one hit.  Anderson was great through five innings, but Trevor Rogers was perfect for the Fish through 4 innings.  The Braves bats had been silenced the night before by Nola, and it was looking like the brief offensive turnaround earlier in the week was over.  But Riley led off the bottom of the 5th with a long homer to left.  A d’Arnaud double, a Contreras double, and a Demeritte single let to two more runs and a three run lead. 

In the 6th, Anderson allowed an infield hit on a grounder to first in which Ian beat the runner to the bag but missed the bag (he actually did touch the base, I think, but the umps on the field and in NY disagreed).  Anderson promptly surrendered a two run shot to Garrett Cooper, and then after a walk and a two run homer by Aguilar, all of a sudden the Braves were trailing 4-3.  Even more importantly, Ian was no longer in line for a Win. Anderson’s change up had been terrific for five innings, but on both home runs it looked like he hung a change.

Jackson “Pepper Sprout” Stephens continues to impress.  I’m still not sure where they found this guy, but he has been dominant.  He finished the 6th without any further damage and went on to toss two scoreless innings.  Most significantly, thanks to Ronnie’s heroics, Stephens got the Win, his first as a Brave.  Minter and Jansen closed it out for the victory.

  *   *   *

Greg Maddux was the smartest pitcher who ever lived.  It’s always dangerous to make comparisons to Maddux, because no one is Maddux.  I’m not saying Mike Soroka is another Maddux; God forbid I curse him with that (I’ve made that mistake with other young hurlers).  But in the way he talks about pitching, Mike Soroka is the smartest and most impressive young pitcher I’ve ever heard . Soroka spent a couple of innings with Chip and Frenchy in the “booth” they had set up in the bleachers and it was a delight to hear from him. I’d love to see him on the mound again for the Braves.  If anyone can overcome two Achilles tears, this guy has the personality, the smarts, and the drive to do it.

Tyler Matzek was also quite impressive in a couple of innings in the booth.

  *   *   *

Yesterday was the birthday of Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Emerson was perhaps the most influential American intellectual of the 19th Century. Emerson was the godfather of the philosopher William James, who is noted as the “Father of American psychology” and as the creator of the philosophical school of Pragmatism.

William James’ namesake, the sabermetrician Bill James, has been on my mind lately. I discovered the Bill James Abstracts in the early 1980’s.  For those who didn’t experience it, it would be difficult to imagine the impact James had on our thinking about baseball.  James could be highly critical of professional sportswriters and professional baseball men.  He once described the difference between his approach and that of daily sportswriters: “Traditional sportswriting begins with the answer and explains it; the Baseball Abstract begins with the question and tries to find the answer.”

James never accepted the received wisdom; he always looked to see whether the evidence supported whatever traditional baseball folks believed.  He was always looking for more information and more data.  Readers of Bill James in the 1980’s knew more about baseball than many front office execs.  By reading the Abstracts, they had access to more evidence and smart analysis than the guys who ran the teams.  That sounds like hyperbole, but I firmly believe it’s true.  There were a lot of not so smart guys running baseball teams, in the front office and on the field, back then.  Executives really did think that a guy who hit .295 with little power and few walks (Enos Cabell) was a better hitter than a guy who hit .240 but led the league in walks and hit 40 homers (Darrell Evans). Heck, the Braves brain trust in the seventies evidently thought Willie Montanez and his shiny .300 average was better than Evans. Actually, this was before I had heard of Bill James, but even I knew that trade was dumb.

But it is no longer true that front offices are filled with hacks who don’t know anything useful.  Teams have an enormous amount of data and analysis at hand than they did a few decades ago.  And they have lots of smart people on staff who know how to use it. Take defensive shifts for example.  When the Braves deploy the shift, they are not just blindly following conventional wisdom.  They are positioning defenders based on thousands of data points.  Sometimes the shift doesn’t work—and the fans scream how stupid it is—but I guarantee the Braves know what they are doing here.  Shifting saves more runs than it cost them; if it didn’t, they wouldn’t continue to do it. 

Fans like to believe that they know more than the people in charge of their team.  We see it in the comments here–I’ve been one of those guys myself on occasion.  But the truth is the folks in the front office and on the field know more than any of us.  Decisions are made based on tremendous amounts of evidence and data and sophisticated analysis, not on conventional wisdom. Bill James is responsible for that revolution. 

[OK, I hear some of you thinking that Snit doesn’t understand some things as well as you do.  Like how Ian always struggles the third time through the order.  You may be right about that one.  But I guarantee you he understands a lot better than any of us what it takes to keep a team playing hard for a whole season.  And that’s perhaps the most  important thing for a manager to know.]

You still occasionally hear folks say that the obsession with statistics and data takes the fun out of the game.  With all due respect, they don’t know what they are talking about.  I loved baseball before the Bill James revolution, but I’ve enjoyed baseball even more since then. 

  *   *   *

On this date in 1992, the Braves were seven games below .500, and seven games out of first place.  Even worse, they were tied for 6th—last place—in the N.L. West.  Struggling was of course nothing new for the Atlanta Braves; in their then 26 year history, the Braves had had a winning record only 7 times.  But 1992 was supposed to be different.  The 1991 edition had been the most successful Atlanta Braves team ever, going to the World Series for the first time and coming within an eyelash of winning it all.  Hopes were high for the ’92 team.  So it was especially frustrating to the fans that the team struggled so in April and May.  Many complained that the team was complacent, that they didn’t have fire in their bellies, or that the 1991 success was a fluke.

The Braves won on May 27, and went on win 9 of the next 10 and 21 out of 24.  The team never looked back as they finished 98-64 and won the division by 8 games.

I’m not predicting that kind of turnaround, but the season is very long.  There is ample time for this year’s team to make a run.  We’ve already proven we can be the most streakless team in history.  Enough of that.  Let’s take our cue from the 1992 team: May 27 is a good date to begin a long winning streak. 

That means that Tucker Davidson will have to beat Sandy Alcantara Saturday at 4:00, but stranger things have happened.

Author: tfloyd

Tfloyd was born on the site of Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. Before the stadium was built, that is; it was then the site of Piedmont Hospital. It took the Braves another 11 years to arrive on what is now Hank Aaron Drive, but I‘ve always liked to arrive at the ballpark early.

69 thoughts on “Hammers 6, Monsters of the Deep 4”

  1. What a great recap. I wish I could say some of this as eloquently, especially about loving baseball before Bill James and more after. Thanks, tfloyd, for rendering your thoughts (and mine) so eloquently.

    I, too, have faith that this team will be very competitive before the end of the year.

    One thing I’d like to add is that I think there is a place for the Tony Gwynn’s of the world – guys that hit .300+ and walk a lot but don’t hit for a lot of power. One of the things I marvel at when I look at statistics from yore is how many players there were with .400+OBP. As much as we talk about three true outcomes, there are very few .400+OBP guys out there any more. If everyone hits .240 with 30 HRs and a .300OBP, you are going to end up with a lot of solo HRs and not a lot of runs scored. I think what the Braves lack is that .400+OBP guy with speed. That’s why Acuna is so important to the lineup. He not only hits for power but gets on base and has speed. If either Dansby or Ozzie could strikeout half as much and walk twice as much, we could live with them hitting 15 HRs instead of 30.

    This is why I wish the Braves would trade for Benintendi. He may be the best combo of defense and onbase out there that is readily available. And he’s not expensive at least for this year.

  2. Thank you, tfloyd. Thorough preparation to accompany the game recap. Did you sleep well?!

  3. @1

    Benintendi…’well intentioned’ in the translation? Both parents American as is he. But further back you might go for French/Spanish/Italian? I’ll take the one with the vowel at the end.

    Not a bad idea. Unloved at Fenway, what gives?

  4. Thanks, tfloyd. Great recap, great comeback win. Anderson looked great there through five. I don’t know quite what to make of him.
    Tough matchup tonight for the Braves.

  5. Gwynn wasn’t a slugger, but he also wasn’t punchless. He hit a LOT of doubles – 543, to he precise. His career slugging of .459 is obviously inflated by the .338 batting average, but an ISO over .100 tells you he wasn’t a banjo hitter. He routinely stung balls into the gap.

    Great recap! Thank goodness we won one. The day’s so much better when we do.

  6. @1–thanks, Roger. That’s a very Jamesian comment you made there. Perhaps the most significant thing Bill James brought to our awareness was the importance of the base on balls, and how OBP is so crucial. How often you can avoid outs at the plate is the most valuable offensive skill. Dansby and Ozzie would both be superstars if they could walk 100 times a year. BA isn’t irrelevant, but a decent average without many walks is not helpful. Of course a very low average makes it very difficult to have a good OBP.

    The reason Darrell Evans was underrated in his time wasn’t because he had a lot of power; folks back then understood that homers are a good thing. It’s because he did indeed walk 100 times a year. He made fewer outs than most of his contemporaries, despite the relatively low BA.

    Of course Tony Gwynn is a superstar and legit HOFer. But he didn’t walk enough. If he had walked 80-100 times a year rather than 40-50 he’d have an all time great OBP.

  7. Wade Boggs was a significantly better offensive player than Tony Gwinn, despite a career BA ten points lower and SLG 16 points lower. His OBP was 27 points higher. His career offensive WAR was 81.4 to Gwinn’s 67.1.

    I agree that strikeouts are not productive and they are very boring; it’s more fun to watch when the ball is put in play more often. Three true outcomes baseball is not as enjoyable to me as old school scrapping for every run. But putting the ball in play with weak contact on a pitch just outside the zone is not nearly as valuable as showing patience and taking more walks.

    In terms of the type of baseball that is fun to watch, I actually prefer a deader ball with fewer home runs. Even so, receiving more bases on balls is helpful in any run environment.

  8. I was not expecting this. Demeritte optioned to Gwinnett as the corresponding move.

    My guess is that Harris is the everyday CF and that Duvall goes to the bench.

  9. Thanks tfloyd. It is difficult to overstate the impact that those first Baseball Abstracts had on so many of us. Not just baseball fans, but serious academic statisticians as well: see https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/13810/baseball-proguestus-a-statistician-rereads-bill-james/

    I can think of few examples in intellectual history where something really new and instantly influential to the prepared mind seems to have come from almost nowhere.

    On Michael Harris: I am very surprised, but in AA I trust.

  10. I figured they’d promote him to AAA and let him win a starting job in 2023. Hopefully the internal consensus in baseball ops is that he’s ready and this isn’t just a sexy move to light a fire.

  11. Harris will struggle
    Waters will never be a major league baseball player
    Neither will Pache.
    At least not notable.

  12. For those of you with a strong religious foundation.
    A miracle will occur if the Braves win today.

  13. I’m also pretty surprised about the Harris callup. I would have thought they’d worry that he’s not quite ready, and that this could set his overall development back. But if I’m going to be consistent (I’m not always!), I have to say that I trust the front office to have taken all that into account.
    In the short term, this is almost certainly an upgrade. It’s hard to believe Harris will be worse than Demeritte has been the last couple of weeks. I imagine Harris is the regular center fielder and Duvall gets bumped to left (right when Ronald is DH); in any event, Duvall will get fewer starts. Ozuna will DH most days, and play left most games that Ronnie is the DH. Not sure how this will impact Contreras getting regular starts in the OF or at DH. If William stays hot, that will cost Duvall even more starts. Let’s hope the days of Ronald being the DH are few and far between going forward.

  14. Just re-watched Soroka in the booth last night, tfloyd, after you wrote about it in the recap. Thanks for mentioning it. An absolute pleasure to listen to him. Got a great head on his shoulders. Can’t wait to have him back on the mount.

  15. Michael Lewis has a podcast called Against the Rules. This season is about experts, and episode 3 titled Field of Ignorance is a conversation with Bill James. The podcast is for a broader audience than baseball fans, so there is stuff there you will likely already know. But I found it interesting anyway.

  16. @9 – Wouldn’t it be Acuna, Harris and Duvall with Ozuna and Contreras manning the DH? At least until Rosario gets back and assuming everyone is healthy?

  17. @ 15 – What’s happened to Chief? Seems like the last time we heard from him he had some extremely reasonable takes.

  18. @20 Good first inning by Tucker.

    I am concerned the Harris call up might show they are worried about Rosario’s recovery, at least this season

  19. I was listening on the radio when Ronald got hit. Did it look intentional? Did Snit come out of the dugout to talk to the ump?

    Mattingly is disgusting.

  20. How bout that! Sharp single by Harris, then Ronald hits it off Sandy’s glove and we got first and third.

    Overturned? Acuña sure looked in there to me.

  21. Maybe there was an angle I didn’t see, but why do we lose all our challenges that appear obvious, and the other teams win theirs when it looks obvious that the call shouldn’t be overturned?

  22. Collin McHugh has just been awful. I may be jumping the gun here, but sometimes a signing doesn’t work out, and I’m not really comfortable with this guy getting any more meaningful innings. He’s close to Tomlin territory for me.

  23. I wish we hadn’t given up those last two runs. I just hope Alcantara doesn’t pitch the ninth.

  24. 20 — I would think most usual would be Ozuna, Harris, and Acuña in the OF with Contreras at DH.

  25. Maybe he does not know as much as you give him credit for. Average at best.
    Players who have spent years in the big leagues may have their moments ( think last year’s playoffs) but mostly they are what they are. Not so good
    Do you think the players should retire a bit earlier. At night I mean.
    Rumor has it the Braves have a very good bullpen. Rumors are just that, rumors.
    Tucker is last years Wright, hopefully it turns out the same way.

  26. Alcantara is looking like a Cy Young candidate. He has a 2.00 ERA against everybody (not just the Braves).

  27. I watched about half of today’s game and it’s like they say – good pitching beats bad hitting!

  28. After an inconsistent few starts after the call up, Salinas struck out 13 (2H 4BB, 1R) in 6 innings for Rome.

  29. Tucker Davidson shuttled back to Gwinnett. Jesus Cruz has been promoted. He was a free agent picked up in March who had 20 strikeouts/1 walk in 12 innings at Gwinnett with a 2.84 ERA.

  30. If you listen to Mike Soroka’s interview on 755 Is Real, obviously you’re interpreting it from a hopeful perspective while hearing from a hopeful person. But Soroka gives a pretty convincing argument that through the sheer redundancy they went through this time around, he will get healthy and he will pitch again. He also really thinks he’s going to pitch again this year and pitch well. He also portrays it that Atlanta was really supportive the entire time, and they seemed to never think that just because a double Achilles tear has never been recovered from, he wouldn’t recover. He doesn’t come out and say it, but he seems to imply that maybe the first Achilles surgery would have been successful if he gave it the redundancy they’ve given it the second time around.

    It’s 100% fair to think that he’ll never pitch again, and if he does that he’ll never be the same, but I don’t think so. I expect him back by August.

  31. I know it’s probably the objectively correct decision to put Strider in the rotation, but good gosh, I love watching him in these 2 innings, balls-to-the-wall stints. That’s pretty damn exciting.

  32. I think if anyone in the world could ever overcome the physical setbacks that Soroka has faced — multiple shoulder injuries, multiple Achilles tears, multiple years between pitching meaningful innings — it is someone with the poise, emotional maturity, makeup, intelligence, and self-awareness as him. He is genuinely extraordinary, and I expect that he will be a highly successful coach, or businessperson, or father, long after his playing career is over.

    But we’re in such uncharted waters here that I don’t feel I can “expect” anything at this point. I can only approach his recovery with what appears to be the same Buddhist serenity that he has: whatever happens, happens. I trust that he will make the best effort he possibly can, and I’m glad the team seems to be doing all the right things. But he’s trying to do something no one’s really ever done before. There’s just no way of knowing.

  33. @46 It will be an interesting data point towards how far we are coming with physiology, orthopedics, and sports science. If Soroka recovers from an injury situation no one has before, this will be a tremendous achievement for those communities.

    I’ve got some pretty radical beliefs about anti-aging, quality of lifespan, and overall lifespan, and conquering these uncharted waters continue to fascinate me. What if we run out of things we can’t figure out and fix with the human body? Obviously a very broad and potential political situation, and I’m not trying to stir something up.

  34. I don’t remember someone having 2 consecutive Achilles injuries like Soroka did.

  35. @50 To be honest, I don’t know if what makes Soroka’s situation unique is that a player has never had two ruptured Achilles at all or that no player has recovered from two ruptured Achilles.

  36. Solar is the next Duval
    Hitting 210 with 10 HR’s and 23 RBI
    Both would lead the Hammers.
    Baseball is sadly all about HR’s and meanless numbers. Give them what they want.
    If they want grade F prison food give them Taco Bell. We live compromise.
    Extremely sad.

  37. With that said, Ozuna is now on pace for one of those all-too-common seasons where someone hits 35+ bombs but has a below league average wRC+ and OPS+.

  38. Eventually Olson is going to go from a double machine to a homer machine, and we’re gonna be rocking and rolling. Two more doubles for him today.

  39. TDA now has below a .700 OPS after a rough month of May.

    I miss when Ozzie could hit.

  40. Minter seems to have really improved his changeup since his stint at Gwinnett last season. I think that’s why he has taken that next step.

  41. The first catch confounds.
    Very lucky, botched approach
    Happy for him.

  42. Strider is starting tomorrow instead of on Davidson’s day and they are pushing everyone else back a day.

  43. I’m not necessarily betting on a win tomorrow, but if we beat Gallen, I think the streak will end on Tuesday. Gallen has a 2.22 ERA and a .83 WHIP in 44.2 innings. I like our chances better with Strider than anyone else we’ve thrown out as a 5th starter.

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